Why Leaders Make-Believe


By Jas Singh

When I was a boy I used to spend the weekends at my grandparents house.

They loved me very much but their house was something like a scene from a 1950’s Alfred Hitchcock movie. Grand English decor, oak furniture, large Victorian ceilings.

They never owned a TV. And within a few months my brother and I had read their entire book collection (or at least those that appealed to an 8 year old). On rainy days (common in the UK :) it was easy to get bored.

To keep ourselves interested, my brother, my kid sister and I would often play make-believe. Superman vs Spiderman vs Tinkerbell. Time travel. Pretending to have special powers. Even acting invisible (sometimes my sister still thinks we’re treating her that way). Entire summer holidays would go by and we used to love it – no TV, no computer, even no WiFi.

And then school would start again and we’d go back to boring reality.

As children, we all tend to day-dream and make-believe. As we get older our imaginations generally start to decline and we tend to use reasoning and logic for most of our activities.

Yet in ten years as a recruiter working with over 13,000 experienced professional I’ve noticed that the best leaders are different. They dare to dream. They even step into their dreams to live them.

Here are some reasons why great leaders make-believe.

It stimulates the imagination

Like all mental abilities, imagination is a muscle that strengthens and grows with use. We either use it or lose it. You can’t expect to come up with great ideas out of no-where if you are entirely used to using Google and Wikipedia to find solutions.

In today’s increasingly competitive world there has never been a greater need for all of us to come up with innovative solutions quickly. Opportunities appear and disappear so quickly that you can’t always rely on McKinsey to tell you what to do.

Imagination is not just a buzz word associated with inventors or novelists.

It’s fast becoming an essential part of successful leadership.

Great leaders understand that by pretending to step into their dreams and acting the part, our imaginations are stimulated. We are more susceptible to new ideas, plans and opportunities.

It builds faith

Imagination and faith are closely linked. When anything we imagine is consistently repeated over and over again we start to believe that it can come true. We start to believe.

Look at any great leader throughout the course of history and invariably they have had a vivid imagination. However what made them successful was not just this imagination had but also how they consistently communicated these beliefs over and over again until it developed belief among their followers.

Great leaders understand that it’s essential to take thoughts and start to translate them into their physical equivalent. Although initially it may be purely fictional, it’s the first step in the conversion process from dreams to reality.

Great leaders build faith.

It creates happiness

The best part of make believe is that it allows us to temporarily escape from the ups and downs of everyday life to be the person we really want to be.

A good friend of mine that I have known since my teens always wanted to be hedge fund manager. When he left University, he tried applying at literally hundreds of places but never got a job anywhere.

However despite this, for six months every Friday night he used to get his best suit on and head out into the West End in London. There, in the posh bars and coffee houses, he’d often get to meet people working in the Financial Markets. For a few hours every week he’d escape into his dream of being a hedge fund manager. He’d speak about trading strategies, market rumors and competitor performance even though he had no practical experience of working in the sector.

Eventually someone did give him a chance. And he’s been a top performer since.

Great leaders understand that happiness doesn’t come from without but from within. If don’t have the money, the fame, the dream career – or whatever you desire – then the next best thing is to pretend you do.

In those few moments of retreat you’re likely to be much more happier.

And it’s funny how in this state, you’re more likely to take positive actions to get closer to your goals.

Great leaders make-believe to stay happy.


Children make-believe to have fun and remain positive.

It’s something all adults could well do with re-learning.

Hiring managers can gain much from those people who don’t always rely on MBA’s and whitepapers, but who can also make-believe to gain the inspiration that is essential to success.

When’s the last time you played make-believe?

If you are a hiring manager and want to hire outstanding people, please reach out here